Posts Tagged ‘Computer Composition’

HOT Sound Art: “Emily Howell” (David Cope, 1980-2011)

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

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HOT music created by the computer program Emily Howell. As Chris Wilson writes, “Ms. Howell’s ancestry dates back to 1980, when Cope — by then a successful human composer — hit a brick wall while trying to write an opera. Cope, a genuine polymath with an aptitude for computers, had been playing music his entire life and was respected among modern composers, but around his 40th birthday his ideas started to dry up. In desperation, he wrote a computer program to generate random melodies and musical ideas.” Supposedly the first results were “unlistenable” (I’d love to hear them) and this caused Cope to rethink his approach. “We don’t start with a blank slate,” Cope says, “In fact, what we do in our brains is take all the music we’ve heard in our life, segregate out what we don’t like, and try to replicate [what we do like] while making it our own.” (read more)

This resulted in the creation of his first virtual composer “Emmy” (EMI: Experiments in Musical Intelligence). 30 years later Cope has finally unveiled his second virtual composer Emily Howell, whose first album From Darkness, Light was released earlier this year. Unfortunately most of the discussion around Emily’s music takes one of two positions: 1) it is as good as human composition (surprising!) or 2) it is clearly the work of a computer (soulless!). However, these questions do not interest me. What interests me is how it sounds, irrespective of our mechanical-human prejudice. And I am here to say Emily’s music sounds HOT!

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“If only Beethoven or Chopin could explain their methods as clearly as David Cope. So when Cope’s program writes a delightful turn of musical phrase, who is the artist: the composer being emulated, Cope’s software, or David Cope himself? Cope offers keen philosophical insights into this question, one that will become increasingly compelling over time. He also provides us with brilliant and unique insights into the intricate structure of humankind’s most universal artform.” (Raymond Kurzweil)

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HOTLINKS

David Cope Artist Website

Free Downloads: Experiments in Musical Intelligence

Triumph of the Cyborg Composer by Ryan Blitstein

More HOT Sound Art

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